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School Administrators Await Budget Proposal

December 3, 2012, 5:05 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

School Administrators Await Budget Proposal

On Tuesday, Governor Dennis Daugaard will spell out his vision for funding South Dakota.

The annual budget address will give lawmakers a road map for the upcoming legislative session. And while the numbers are hammered out, education funding is expected to rise as a top issue, once again.

"When they're running for election it seems like everybody is for education. When they get to Pierre and have to find the money for it, that doesn't seem to happen," Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig said.

Sittig says cuts to state aid for education have been difficult for all schools in South Dakota. This year's budget will likely include a three percent funding increase for schools. Sittig adds that even if there is a three percent increase in funding for education, it still doesn't return schools to where they were funded just a few years ago.

"You know, we were cut 8.6 percent and if we just keep getting three percent or the rate of inflation, we're never going to catch up and I'm not sure schools can live on that," Sittig said.

Right now, Baltic is dipping into reserves to help minimize the impact on students. Sittig worries that while a three percent increase to funding is likely, one time money from last year won't be back in the budget, which means it won't truly be a three percent increase to schools. He hopes for additional bonuses to help schools, but says those too come with a catch.

"The funding isn't ongoing, we can't necessarily count on it in the future and that just leads to a lot of uncertainty in our budgets and what we do long-term," Sittig said.

But in the short term, school administrators from around the state are waiting to hear what the Governor proposes.

Districts like Baltic had hoped Initiated Measure 15 would have passed last month's election. However, it failed. It would have generated about $300,000 a year for that district. 

Even with a three percent increase, many districts say they'll likely have to opt out of the state property tax freeze to avoid more cuts.

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